Stretched too thin? Capitol Hill cheese bar Culture Club to close

LaVigne as Culture Club debuted last November (Image: CHS)

LaVigne as Culture Club debuted last November (Image: CHS)

It turns out Capitol Hill could not support a cheese bar. And it has lost its cheese monger — for now, at least.

“Putting every ounce of yourself into something and then having to admit failure is the hardest thing on earth,” Sheri LaVigne said as she announced the immediate closure of her less than a year old Culture Club cheese bar on 12th Ave.

UPDATE 5/11/2016 3:30 PM: CHS caught up with LaVigne Wednesday — she said she decided to take a break from her phone Tuesday with the closure news adding to what has been a stressful week.

“You have to really know how to promote what you’re doing,” LaVigne said, summing up what she feels like lead to her decision to shut down her businesses. “I think I was resting a lot on the reputation of Calf and Kid.”

Resting isn’t exactly the right word. LaVigne’s hard work wasn’t matched by some of the promotional machinery being deployed in an increasingly mature Capitol Hill entertainment economy. LaVigne said she doesn’t see Culture Club’s closure as a sign of trouble for restaurants and bars around the Hill.

“It’s the opposite. It’s just an explosion. We are so beyond the saturation point,” she said. But in the new environment, it can be easy for something new to get lost in the shuffle. And if costs aren’t kept in check, things can change quickly. Continue reading

At Lark, you’ll soon be eating 12th Ave-grown ‘lettuce and tender herbs’

(Image: Lark)

(Image: Lark)

A Capitol Hill restaurant is taking its dedication to locally sourced ingredients to a new level. Lark announced Friday it is collaborating on an urban garden high above 12th Ave atop the new Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing building:

We are thrilled to be partnering with Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing (CHUC) and Seattle Urban Farm Company in a new venture that redefines ‘local’ for Lark’s food sourcing. CHUC is nearing completion on their home of 12th Ave, a building that will house nine families under a rooftop farm. The farm has always been destined as a space where residents can grow food for their families. Early in the design process it was realized that there would be far more growing space than the residents could put to use for their own needs. We were thrilled to be invited to collaborate.

CHS reported here on the long journey for the families who came together to develop and construct their own multifamily building in the middle of Capitol Hill. The project will also break new ground in urban farming.

“Lark has always put tremendous effort into sourcing our food responsibly and choosing purveyors that adhere to our ideals of sustainability,” the restaurant’s announcement reads.

This partnership with CHUC allows us to take our commitment to the best ingredients to the next level. Lark will have a hand in choosing the crops for the CHUC rooftop garden, and reap a sizable yield each season. This month we’ll plant lettuces and tender herbs – quick crops that we’ll be enjoying by July. We have our sights on heaps of Romano beans, beets, chard and other delicious vegetables later in the summer and into autumn.

Lark joins a small set of Hill restaurants with a patch of dirt available to grow some of their own ingredients including Poppy and its off-Broadway herb garden. Volunteer Park Cafe, too, has a green thumb. Meanwhile, the Wandering Goose has kept its own bees. UPDATE: Add Terra Plata to the garden list.

In late 2014, Lark moved into its new home in the Central Agency building at 10th and Seneca from its longtime 12th Ave location.

Capitol Hill’s cohousing pioneers are ready to move in on 12th Ave

The residents gathered for a rooftop portrait (Images: Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing)

The residents gathered for a rooftop portrait (Images: Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing)

“At some point you need to have that bigger vision in mind and that long term goal.”

Getting along with apartment building neighbors requires at least a modicum of social grace. Getting along with potentially lifelong neighbors that are also equal owners in a partnership to develop and own a building mandates serious training.

After breaking ground in 2014, and years of planning prior to that including classes in consensus decision making, the members of Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing are ready to move into their new home (and their 12th and Howell building is almost ready for them). You can get a sneak peek of the building on Saturday from 10 AM to 4PM as part of National Cohousing Open House day.

The 12th Ave cohousing development isn’t a traditional cooperative. CHUC residents are their own developers. While tenants in a cooperative or condo building have to eat the costs of a developer’s profit, CHUC residents say there are keeping their costs as low as possible and will essentially impose their own rent control once they have moved in. The nine families making up the community are all equal partners in an company that obtained a loan to develop the building.

Looking back on what it took to get to this point CHUC co-founder Mike Mariano paused when asked if he would do it all again.

“If you think about it too much, you would never do it,” said Mariano, a principal architect at Schemata Workshop. “At some point you need to have that bigger vision in mind and that long term goal.”

As Mariano and the rest of the CHUC members discovered, financing is not easy when you’re not trying to simply maximize profits. Developing the property as a community was a means to an end for CHUC — ends that include communal meals and work in the rooftop garden, longterm stability, and a tight-knit support group that will hopefully last a lifetime. Continue reading

Capitol Hill food+drink | Financial trouble hits Tavern Law family of businesses

The Seattle Times this week has reported on the “financial trouble” and demise of Belltown’s Spur Gastropub, apparently a weak link in the food+drink chain of pubs, restaurants, and taverns assembled since the late 2000s by the chef duo of Brian McCracken and Dana Tough.

The McCracken-Tough Capitol Hill interests Tavern Law and The Old Sage, both men tell the Times, will not be closing.

That may well be. But Spur’s closure doesn’t mean the financial issues are solved. Court records reveal that earlier this month, King County Superior Court Judge John H. Chun signed a summary judgement detailing more than $1.2 million owed for a loan McCracken took from his father in 2009. Continue reading

Mayor Murray cuts the ribbon at 12th Ave Square Park

IMG_8347 IMG_8349

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

A stretch of warm and sunny days ahead will make this weekend the perfect time to check out Seattle’s newest park. Mayor Ed Murray helped cut the ribbon at the 12th Ave Square Park on Thursday alongside his husband, Michael Shiosaki, planning director at Seattle Parks and Recreation. Thursday’s celebration also included music by a Garfield High School jazz trio.

The park sits on the corner of 12th Ave and E James Court, across from Seattle University’s sports complex. It had been an empty lot until the land was transformed into a plaza-like park which unofficially opened in February at a cost of about $1.06 million.IMG_8250

At about 7,300 square feet and wedged between mixed-use housing, a cafe, and a restaurant, it’s on the smaller end of the park spectrum. To make the park pop, artist Ellen Sollod created the “Cloud Veil” — an installation of metal mesh and mirrors that hangs over the park space. The opening was also a milestone for the 12th Avenue Stewards group, which had long advocated for the park.

Though only the width of one block, Seattle Parks says the park’s woonerf “provides pedestrians and cyclists priority on the street,” and say the “technique of shared spaces, traffic calming, and low speed limits contribute to improved pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile safety.”

The Dimas Model: Sunset latest in Capitol Hill counter empire

Dimas (Image: Sunset Seattle)

Dimas (Image: Sunset Seattle)

There’s the happiest of partnerships blooming across Capitol Hill — and it is spreading to Portland.

Monica Dimas is putting what she hopes are the final touches for Sunset Fried Chicken Sandwiches this week, her latest symbiotic relationship with the drink-focused culinary creations of Rachel Marshall, creator of Rachel’s Ginger Beer and part of the ownership behind Montana and Nacho Borracho.

“It’s helped us grow together,” Dimas tells CHS. “Rachel’s business has become even more successful. It’s nice to be part of.

With the opening of Sunset — expected soooooon — Dimas will provide the food to Marshall’s drink at each of the three Capitol Hill venues.

Sunset will add a fried chicken sandwich counter inside Rachel’s Ginger Beer at 12th Ave Arts. Continue reading

With Cloud Veil rising above, celebrate the new 12th Ave Square Park

Felipe says he and Leeloo pass through the park at least twice a week (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Felipe says he and Leeloo pass through the park at least twice a week (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Dustin works nearby

Dustin works nearby

Ellen Sollod had been involved in designing the new 12th Ave Square Park from the early stages. At about 7,300 square feet and wedged between mixed-use housing, a cafe, and a restaurant, it’s on the smaller end of the park spectrum. So while everyone involved in the design wanted some central identifying feature, Sollod, an artist by trade, knew it shouldn’t be something that would “interrupt” the park, like a big sculpture might.

And so “Cloud Veil” was born, and installation of metal mesh and mirrors that hangs over the park space.

“It has a kind of a big top quality,” Sollod said, and along with the pillars which support the mesh, it helps define the space as being a room.

Thursday night, Seattle Parks will celebrate one of its newest open spaces with a ribbon-cutting and music.

The park sits on the corner of 12th Ave and E James Court, across from Seattle University’s sports complex. It had been an empty lot until the land was transformed into a plaza-like park which opened in February at a cost of about $1.06 million.

From the early stages, neighborhood residents, in particular the 12th Avenue Stewards group, had wanted to take a collaborative approach to the park’s design. The idea was for art to be integrated into the fabric of the park, rather than just tacked on at the end. Continue reading

Capitol Hill: Land of Seattle’s new ‘marketplaces’

Chophouse Row was full at its June 2015 grand opening (Image: CHS)

Chophouse Row was full at its June 2015 grand opening (Image: CHS)

There’s a nice portrait of two of Pike/Pine’s freshest preservation-friendly developments in the latest New York Times trends piece on Seattle’s new “marketplaces”:

Building on Seattle’s history of farmers’ markets and a strong food culture, new marketplaces are showcasing the local and unique, offering many choices for shopping, eating and connecting. For residents and tourists alike, these vibrant markets have become destinations all their own.

Liz Dunn’s Chophouse Row opened last June on 11th Ave between Pike and Union complete with high-tech office tenants above while here’s our coverage on the early efforts from Jerry Everard to redevelop the Central Agency building at 10th and Seneca which opened in late 2014. Both are now chock full of food and drink options and a few small niches of retail.

Both will also likely face the realities of small business.

The NYT doesn’t touch on the recent coverage of problems at the city and Capitol Hill’s original new-era marketplace, Melrose Market:

CHS spoke with Russ Flint of Rain Shadow and he says he is looking into working with SDOT’s Capitol Hill Construction Hub to address the current problems around street parking but said that he’s surprised the city expects business owners to take the lead on these kinds of problems. “Why are we policing construction workers?” Flint asked.

Dunn’s Melrose Market, of course, is the development that proved what Chophouse Row and Central Agency would work. The issues around small merchants struggling to stay in business inside the development are likely also proof that some tenants will struggle and close even “There’s a synergy by having places play off each other,” as Everard is quoted saying in the Times travel piece.

There’s hope. At Melrose, Flint told CHS last week he was just beginning to wend his way through City Hall’s offices to connect with new services put in place to help existing merchants better navigate the city’s ongoing waves of development. And cheesemonger Sheri LaVigne might be closing her Melrose Market cheese counter but she’s not shutting Calf and Kid down. Watch for her retail counter to reopen inside her 12th Ave cheese bar, Culture Club — located in the street-level retail space below, of all things, a Capitol Hill microhousing development. Watch for a NYT trend piece on that, soon.

Protest continues push to stop county’s new 12th Ave Children and Family Justice Center

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

IMG_1002The City of Seattle has yet to issue the permits necessary to build a new King County Children and Family Justice Center at the site of the current youth jail at 12th and Alder. But planners for the euphemistically titled project are moving forward. On February 29th, an application to demolish the northern portion of the current facility was filed with the city. A week an a half earlier, the paperwork began for the new “phased” construction project to “construct a new youth services center building with courtroom, office, detention housing and school, and occupy per plan.”

Sunday, more than 200 people showed up for a camp and information tent protest to call for the city to never approve those permits for the county project because of ongoing concerns about racial disparity in the justice system and frustrations over building a brand new facility that they say perpetuates it. Continue reading